Daoism argues that the authentic world is one in which words are transcended and images forgotten. Since the purpose of words is to define things, yet doing so causes things to be separated from their associated images. What is more, Daoism believes that words and images arise from an ineffable source known as Dao. Thus if we are to grasp Dao, we must learn to think not with our minds but with our spirit. This talk will explore the nature of human thinking and why we struggle to realize our thoughts in words. The first part of the talk will focus on the arguments found in classical Daoism, while the second part explores how these arguments found their way into China’s earliest treatise on the literary creative process: Lu Ji’s Poetic Exposition on Literature. The talk will end with a short discussion of how we can overcome our dependency on words and images by harmonizing our spirit with the imageless, wordless nature of Dao.
David CHAI is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. He is the author of Zhuangzi and the Becoming of Nothingness (SUNY Press, 2019), and editor of Daoist Encounters with Phenomenology: Thinking Interculturally about Human Existence (Bloomsbury, 2020), and the Dao Companion to Xuanxue (Neo-Daoism) (Springer, 2020). His work has appeared in a wide variety of journals and edited anthologies on topics related to Chinese philosophy, metaphysics, phenomenology, hermeneutics, and comparative philosophy.